Drug and Firearms Squad detective Rotary's 2022 Police Officer of the Year

Saturday, 05 November 2022 04:23:51 AM

A detective senior constable from State Crime Command’s Drug and Firearms Squad is this year’s Rotary NSW Police Officer of the Year, recognised for his unwavering commitment to solving crimes, particularly during the challenges while operating during Covid-19 lockdowns.

The NSW Police Officer of the Year awards is a joint initiative by Rotary Clubs of NSW and the NSW Police Force each year, to recognise professional excellence and dedication to service by officers and civilian staff.

This year, the Awards were presented by NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb APM; Deputy Premier of NSW and Minister for Police, The Hon. Paul Toole; Rotary Club of Sydney President, David Hirsch; and retired NSW Police Inspector, Irene Juergens APM.

The awards were announced at a gala dinner at the Hyatt Regency, Sydney, on Friday 4 November 2022, where hundreds of police officers, civilian employees, volunteers, their families, Rotarians and corporate supporters came together to recognise excellence in service across six categories, as well as the overall Police Officer of the Year.

Judges deemed Detective Senior Constable Nathan Gabriel worthy of the overall award due to his outstanding commitment to his investigations, with special mention of his work under Strike Force Heighway.

In announcing the Award, Det Snr Cst Gabriel’s work in implementing unique investigative techniques was highlighted.

The command’s submission described how Det Snr Cst Gabriel drew on his specialist drug manufacture experience – spanning more than eight years – coupled with an innate understanding of how organised crime syndicates operate, to develop a complex investigative plan, which incorporated traditional methodologies with dynamic and imaginative ways to progress the investigation over many months.

“When the Covid pandemic was at its peak, many traditional investigative strategies became unfeasible, yet Det Snr Cst Gabriel remained steadfast in his resolve and pressed on,” the submission detailed.

“The culmination of clever police work allowed Det Snr Cst Gabriel to lead his team to arrest three criminal syndicate members – who were all charged with murder – and the recovery of human remains on a remote property.”

Commissioner Webb commended Det Snr Cst Gabriel, and all nominees, for putting ‘service above self’, as the Rotary motto reads.

“I am incredibly proud of our finalists and winners, whose extraordinary passion for the job is an inspiration to us all,” Commissioner Webb said.

“Their commitment and dedication to community service and safety is exemplary.

“As we all celebrate their achievements, I also recognise the thousands of police officers, civilian employees and volunteers around the state who demonstrate expertise and dedication in their duties, day-in and day-out.

“Without them, our police force could not exist or function as it does so well today,” Commissioner Webb said.

Commissioner Webb congratulated Det Snr Cst Gabriel for also being named the Investigations and Counter Terrorism Police Officer of the Year.

Winners in the other categories include:

Senior Constable Kellie Wilson – South West Metropolitan Region Domestic Violence High Risk Offender Team – Metropolitan Field Operations Police Officer of the Year

Snr Cst Kellie Wilson has a 21-year career with the NSWPF with the past 15 years dedicated to domestic violence teams. She has displayed exemplary service to victims and has built invaluable relationships with partner agencies. She continues to investigate, target and arrest high-ranking organised crime figures for domestic violence-related matters. Her efforts have established networks across specialist commands and PACs resulting in significant arrests and intelligence gathering.

Sergeant David Turner – Communications Group – Corporate Services Police Officer of the Year

Sgt David Turner has made outstanding contributions to the NSWPF Radio Network, playing an integral role generating comprehensive change, stakeholder and communications plans at the program and project level to mitigate risk, ensure seamless delivery, and satisfy governance requirements. He played a key role in the successful delivery of the digitalisation and encryption of the Western Region radio network, enhancing officer and community safety. He also developed and delivered change and education/training materials for the introduction of new radio terminals state-wide, impacting more than 17,000 police officers.

Chief Inspect Robert (Bob) Fitzgerald – Blacktown Police Area Command – Rotary Community Award

Ch Insp Robert Fitzgerald has 37 years of service with the past 16 years in Blacktown PAC. He is hands-on with recent achievements including, raising almost $48,000 for Blacktown Women and Girls Health Centre by the Blacktown City Council’s CEO Sleepout; he volunteers with the Mount Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency in support of Refugee Week, volunteers with Convey for Kids helping raise more than $1 million for The Newborn and Paediatric Emergency Transport Service, and during the COVID lockdown distributed meals to isolating families in Rooty Hill, Minchinbury, Mt Druitt, Doonside and Woodcroft.

Vivienne Sweeny – South Coast Police District – Police Employee of the Year

ACLO Vivienne Sweeny is attached to Nowra Police Station and has created a positive relationship between police and the local Aboriginal community. During the Covid pandemic response, Ms Sweeny played an integral role in the development and creation of the Local Aboriginal Community Action Plan, ensuring Elders within the Shoalhaven community had frequent welfare visits. She has also been pivotal in the development of local projects relating to both domestic violence and youth in amongst the Aboriginal community. These include the Caring For Country Program and the Fit For Life program.

Senior Constable Steven Planinic – Auburn Traffic and Highway Patrol Command – Customer Service Excellence Award

Sgt Steven Planinic’s initiative and unwavering contribution to NSW Police Legacy and the wider community is clearly demonstrated through his not-for-profit program Beat the Blue which commenced in 2016. Beat the Blue is geared towards educating at risk groups of drivers on road craft, vehicle dynamics and road safety. He has also developed a learner-driver safety night program which runs monthly. There is now a waitlist for this program,

Senior Constable Courtney Pietens – Richmond Police District – Irene Juergens (IJ) Fellowship Award Sworn Category

Snr Cst Courtney Pietens is a proud Bundjalung women, growing up in Lismore and joining the NSW Police Force in 2013. Her impact within the Ballina and Lismore regions has been significant, building positive community relationships, especially with Aboriginal youth and out-of-home care providers. Her youth mentoring role has seen a reduction in youth offending from an at-risk cohort on average from 12 to 15 offences per quarter to little or no offences. Snr Cst Pietens has successfully collaborated with THWP, Police Rescue and various community groups to run events with her efforts in July 2022 seeing over 1,000 children attend an engagement day generating significant community goodwill. She is also the current State Vice Chair of the Aboriginal Employee Network.

Edward Moore – South Coast Police District – Irene Juergens (IJ) Fellowship Award Unsworn Category*

Mr Edward Moore has served 19 years with the NSWPF and operates as the South Coast PD ACLO from Batemans Bay to the Victorian border. This area has nine Aboriginal communities primarily of the Yuin Nations people. Mr Moore is a tireless proponent of the Aboriginal Action Plan and Aboriginal Strategic Direction to enhance the rapport and trust between police and the Aboriginal community. He is the vice chairperson of the Southern Region Aboriginal Employees Network Chairperson, mentoring junior staff about community engagement and cultural expectations. In 2020 Mr Moore founded a ‘Caring 4 Country’ initiative and plays an active role in the Wallaga Lake community. He is also an advocate for the PCYC Fit For Life initiative.

Bernard Carey – Burwood Police Area Command – Volunteer of the Year Award

Mr Bernard Carey is a former school principal who joined Burwood PAC as a Volunteer in Policing in 2019. His duties include helping the Crime Prevention Unit with a significant volume of administrative tasks as well as victim support in the Domestic Violence Unit at Burwood Local Court. He also organises police talks with the senior community, assists in letterbox drops, car park audits, CCTV camera canvasses and maintains the Command’s CCTV register list. In addition to this, Mr Carey maintains the local next-of-kin register, the public noticeboard and helps with school fetes and youth programs.

*Irene Juergens, better known as ‘IJ’, was the first female sergeant in the NSW Police Force to receive the APM and the first woman to receive the NSW Police Medal. She served for 43 years, including as OIC of the Crime Prevention Section and as State Coordinator of the VIP Program.